If you were to take David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino and a Luchador (latter runs on It Makes Sense in Context) and lock them in a room surrounded by Sci-Fi movies, anime and Andy Warhol paintings, you'd get something quite close to the inside of Goichi Suda's mind.
Goichi Suda (born January 2, 1968), or Suda 51 as he's better known, is one of the most Mind Screwing game designers out there. He's the head of Grasshopper Manufacture and is known for making games which create a unique, if slightly/extremely unsettling, experience. He frequently collaborates with music composers Masafumi Takada and Akira Yamaoka and writer Masahii Ooka.
Common themes include assassins, hotels, briefcases, Mexican wrestling, severed heads in paper bags, the Moon, and random pop culture references.
Games written and directed by Suda51:
- Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3 Final Bout
- Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special
- Twilight Syndrome: Search and Investigation
- Moonlight Syndrome
- The Silver Case
- Flower, Sun and Rain
- The 25th Ward: The Silver Case
- Samurai Champloo Sidetracked
- Blood+: One Night Kiss
- No More Heroes
- Fatal Frame IV (JP: Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen)
- Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes
Non-video game works:
- SDATCHER (audio drama prequel to Snatcher)
- Japan Animator Expo (episode "Tokio of the Moon's Shadow")
- Kurayami Dance
On a side note, his alias comes from his name: "Goichi" is composed of the Japanese numbers for five ("go") and one ("ichi").
Frequently used tropes are:
- Arc Number:
- The number "51" appears in just about every game Suda has a hand in making.
- Games with episodic stories always start their numbering at zero, not one.
- Art Shift: At least once per game; usually much more. Sometimes for an entire chapter (or at least its cutscenes).
- Author Appeal: Luchadores. He even occasionally asks for fans to do wrestling moves on certain people.
- Awesome McCool Name: All the time. Travis Touchdown, Garcia Fucking Hotspur, Sumio Mondo...
- Bait-and-Switch Boss: Usually at least one per game, if it's an action game in the first place.
- Big Bad: Consistently subverted; the character set up as the main antagonist is rarely behind everything, and by the time you've reached the game's ending, you're probably going to have a hard time pointing to who the "real villain" is.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: His games are characterized by No Fourth Wall. Even his most serious games have plenty of Leaning on the Fourth Wall.
- Black and Gray Morality: The majority of his protagonists are either assassins or (at least slightly trigger-happy) detectives; he only very rarely has you control a truly "good" character.
- Creator Thumbprint:
- Camera shots of just the characters' faces, in various styles and hardly sharing the same "physical position".
- Severed heads, sometimes in brown paper bags. And sometimes not quite dead.
- Bizzare dialogue that doesn't completely chain together. Including bouts of hostility from the characters to other characters, the player, or both.
- An obscure detail: odd names for buildings. Ever heard of the Cauliflower railroad satellite building, or the Typhoon apartments? What about the Celtic apartment building?
- Death Is Cheap: A running theme. Character death means very little most of the time, as characters will frequently reincarnate in some form or another as needed.
- Deconstructor Fleet: His games go out of their way to deconstruct (and also reconstruct) video game tropes, social tropes, and everything else.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: A recurring theme in his games is that they examine the differing values between Japan and the West/U.S., which he started doing as soon as his games started being published overseas.
- Establishing Character Moment: The second game he ever worked on, Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special's Sudden Downer Ending, with the main character being Driven to Suicide after realizing that he's lost everything in the pursuit of his dream. Quite the way to make a name for yourself.
- Gainax Ending: Expected for a developer who specializes in Mind Screw, but Suda gets special points in this category, as his endings tend to go all-out in ways the rest of the game hasn't.
- Game Within a Game: Sometimes as a plot point more than a mini-game.
- Goroawase Number: The origin of his nickname Suda51: "Goichi" is pronounced like "5-1."
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: In The Silver Case they're Cases and Reports. In Flower, Sun, and Rain, they're Requests. And in killer7, they're Targets. And in all three of these games, they start at the number 0.
- Magical Realism: Most of his works are very much this. The ultimate message of the plots will usually have to do more with the characters, society and the nature of the work as a game, but said plots are punctuated by fantastical concepts such as invisible exploding monster terrorists or what may or may not be a "Groundhog Day" Loop.
- Masked Luchador: He's a huge fan, and it shows. Nearly every game has a luchador, or at least a reference to one.
- Mind Screw: His penchant for unsettling gamers with plot twists, shoving in vignettes note or Non Sequiturs, and throwing in random plot threads (such as political commentary) create quite a...unique experience.
- Obfuscating Insanity: Nothing he does is meaningless or random; carefully examine any of his works, and you'll find that there's quite a lot of deliberate connections and meanings both literal and symbolic behind his strange decisions. Despite this, he presents it all in a deliberately unintuitive manner, especially for first-time players.
- One Steve Limit: Usually played straight in any individual game, but subverted between games, often intentionally and to provoke speculation upon what connections two different games might have (or just because he thought a name was really cool). For example, Sumio Kodai, Sumio Mondo and Mondo Zappa; or Travis Bell and Travis Touchdown.
- Playing the Player: Oftentimes in a way more akin to trolling, rather than dramatic manipulation. Though there can be that, too.
- Rule of Cool: One of the constants in his games: awesome things happen because they're awesome. And they are usually never brought up again.
- Rule of Symbolism / World of Symbolism: A sliding scale between the two.
- Shared Universe: "Kill the Past", although the games it consists of are a matter of debate within the fandom. Often referred to as a Thematic Series due to the fact that the only games from it available in English for many years were both barely connected at all; now that more of them are translated, the literal connections are more apparent. Several other Grasshopper games also have minor connections to them. Travis Strikes Back establishes the 'verse clearly, with characters from No More Heroes, killer7, Shadows of the Damned, Killer is Dead, Let It Die and The 25th Ward crossing paths with each other.
- Shout-Out: Spot the references to songs from the 80s! (Among many, many other things.)
- Signature Style: Suda's games usually employ close-ups of people's faces during cutscenes. There are also many recurring objects and symbols, including: briefcases, Luchadors, the Moon, and toilets.
- The Stinger: You can pretty much always expect one if he's directing; sometimes entire chapters of it, which can then sometimes necessitate an additional credits sequence. (Which then has its own stinger, naturally.)
- This Loser Is You: Most famously Travis Touchdown, but other loser characters are designed to represent the player.
- Two Lines, No Waiting: A common structure for his games is to alternate between two different protagonists. Sometimes done with a "story points" system where you can choose whether to alternate between chapters or to play through an entire protagonist's route at your discretion.
- Undertaker: Believe it or not, Suda originally started as an undertaker before he became a game designer. During his tenure in this business, he found that many people handled the deaths of their loved ones differently, which in turn influenced his games' tendencies to examine death and killing in video games.
- Weird Moon: The Moon is usually used for transition and chapter end screens, often with varying colors.
- You Bastard!: One of the many deconstructions in his games are calling out players on their bloodlust and love of violence.
- "Punk's Not Dead"